Britain's B&Bs and guesthouses need your help
I am writing on behalf of all the B&Bs, guesthouses and small independent hotels in your constituency and throughout the UK.
B&Bs are the cornerstone of the UK's tourism industry and a vital part of the economy - especially the often fragile economy of many rural and coastal areas, where they are often the only tourism accommodation. Britain will need the contribution of its Bed & Breakfast businesses as and when we recover after the Coronavirus crisis. So do help to save them, their owners' livelihoods and their homes.
B&Bs are small individually, but together add up to a big business: 35,575 SMEs turning over (pre-Covid-19) £3.6 billion and providing the livelihood directly for 60,000 people (and many more in their local supply chains and as a result of local spending by guests).
[ONS figures from 2019]
B&Bs and guesthouses saw a 60% slump in sales in 2020
Our member survey at the end of 2020 shows that the average sales turnover for 2020 across our membership for the year as a whole was down 60% on 2019. They have only received £4 in every £10 of the income they saw in 2019.
B&Bs suffer seven times worse than the rest of the economy
Figures from the ONS last month
showed that the UK's GDP fell from Q3 2019 to Q3 2020 by 8.6%
. So the facts are that B&Bs have suffered seven times worse a hit than the economy as a whole
. So to fairly reflect the actual situation, Government support for B&Bs, guesthouses and small independent hotels should be seven times the average support for businesses.
In fact, most B&Bs have not had sufficient support, and some have have lost out on any help at all.
Back in October, one in five (20.24%) of our members told us they needed "further financial support from the Government to ensure our business's survival into 2021". By late December, over one in four (26.83%) said they need urgent financial support to survive. And that was before the new national lockdowns which Governments have imposed this week. They now face a dire outlook with further months of zero income, but regular bills still to pay.
Debate on Monday 11 Jan on 'Minister for Hospitality'
The hospitality industry is the third largest UK employer, responsible for around 3m jobs, generating £130bn in activity, and resulting in £38bn of Government revenue through taxation. Yet, unlike the Arts or Sport, we do not have a dedicated Minister. The Petition is asking that a "Minister for Hospitality" be created for the current, and successive governments.
Our support for the Petition is NOT in any way a reflection on the small but hard-working, dedicated and supportive tourism team within DCMS, nor on Nigel Huddleston, the current UK Minister for Sport, Heritage & Tourism, who has done as good a job as possible within the constraints of his role, and who I believe is one of the best Ministers we have had in my time (since doing this job I have dealt with 12 Ministers).
That is part of the problem: in the two years pre-Covid (2018 & 2019), we had FOUR Ministers, and over the last 10 years, we have had nine. To be honest, you would not run a whelk stall that way, would you?
It is not good enough. This and the fact that "our" minister has two other huge roles (sport and heritage) in addition to tourism, and works in a department that does not even have tourism (let alone hospitality) in its name, shows how undervalued our sector has historically been within Government.
I hope the huge response to the petition, and the debate in Parliament on Monday, may start a process leading to a big change in how our crucial industry is served and supported by Government. Please do take part in the debate and support our crucial sector. You are most welcome to quote any information from this email.
The positive news is that the frequency of meetings (like the Tourism Industry Council
) since the Covid crisis began, between the Minister and DCMS officials (and often those of other departments) and trade associations like ours, has deepened the understanding of our sector within Government. It has also helped cement very constructive working relationships between the trade bodies. That can only be good for the future. Now this once-vibrant sector (usually a strong foreign currency earner too) is asking for enhanced and consistent representation within Government to plan and enable our recovery.
This week's new £4.6 billion "lockdown grants"
This week the Chancellor announced £4.6bn of "new lockdown grants". The 51% of our members who pay Business Rates will be relieved to be able to access new one-off grants of £4,000 or £6,000 (though those figures will not go far towards the cost of months of closure). Please do press the Government to expedite the grant distribution process.
There were a number of problems with the earlier rounds of Government help which meant that many B&Bs were unable to receive support - I outlined some in my last email to all MPs, on 22 April 2020
. Some 49% of our members are not
on the Business Rates system, for instance - they pay only Council Tax. And many small B&Bs (46% of our Council Tax-paying members) do not even have a business bank account, which was a condition of grants and even loans.
The pleas we hear from our members in need can be heart-rending. One lady who runs a (previously) very successful B&B in Ayrshire is "without any trade at all and no financial assistance". "I am in a constant state of anxiety... and most of the time I am close to tears" she writes, as she now has zero income and still has monthly outgoings of £2,000 for the business alone (excluding subsistence for her and her family). She was denied assistance from the Scottish Government's "hardship fund".
Another typical member in Derbyshire pays rent for her B&B property of £800 per month. The only help she has received was £500 from the "Additional Restrictions Grant" and £446 from the SEISS (self-employed) scheme. These two pieces of help together cover just five weeks of her rent alone - and B&Bs like hers have been closed by Government restrictions for 24 weeks or more during 2020. Their fixed costs (rent or mortgage, utilities, insurance, Council Tax etc.) must still be paid each month.
Those are just two real examples to illustrate the problems in our sector from support not being targeted to where it is most needed.
It is very important that the "discretionary grants" funded by the £594 million of the Chancellor's package allocated to Local Authorities and Devolved Administrations are available to small and micro-businesses like B&Bs who are NOT on the Business Rates lists, and those who may not even have a business bank account. The grants must not be denied to those eligible for SEISS, which (as the above example shows) is often of negligible help for businesses in a highly seasonal industry who have invested in their business in recent years.
These micro-businesses are the livelihoods of their owners, and support their local economies through their suppliers and the money their guests spend locally.
I hope this email has been useful in informing you about the plight of B&Bs and guesthouses, which are such a vital part of Britain's tourism and heritage.
If we can be of any further help in briefing you for the debate and for your dealings with Ministers, please let me know.
Please do keep up to date with the issues vital to your B&B constituents by following us on twitter
(and in Scotland, @ScotBandBassoc
With many thanks for reading this, for your support for the B&B businesses in your constituency, and for the work you do for your constituents and for the country at this difficult time.